eBay wants to leverage its massive trove of consumer data to help sellers drive sales on its online marketplace.

After years of languishing in the backwaters of eBay Inc., the online marketplace’s advertising business is ready to make a splash. The ad division is in the midst of a marked transformation in which it aims to leverage its massive trove of consumer data to help sellers drive sales.

A major step in that process came Thursday when eBay announced it is building a 30-plus person direct ad sales team to sell display ads and other premium ad placements on the online marketplace. That’s a first for eBay, which previously worked with Triad Digital Media LLC to sell ads on its behalf.

The move represents a marked shift in which the platform’s ad strategy aims to drive sales on eBay, says Bridget Davies, vice president of eBay Advertising. As part of the initiative, eBay is halting sales of display ads and promoted listings—the online marketplace’s search ad—that link to other retailers’ websites. Marketers will continue to be able to buy display ads for non-competitive products and services, such as insurance or telecom services.

“Historically we’ve had a healthy, growing ads business that offered complementary services that took consumers off of eBay,” Davies says. “We plan to continue to grow that business, but also offer brands and sellers a broader suite of opportunities to advertise within the eBay ecosystem that drive sales on eBay.”

Advertising on eBay that keeps users on the platform is a “minority” of the online marketplace’s advertising revenue, but this push aims to make it a “significant” share of that revenue, an eBay spokesman says.


The new advertising push will enable a retailer or manufacturer to buy premium placements, including prominent display ads, page sponsorships or sponsorships of other assets, such as an eBay-curated selection of products the online marketplace presents on a page dedicated to Father’s Day.

The online marketplace’s pitch is that it will enable advertisers to leverage the data it gathers from its 167 million active buyers who search, browse and buy on its site and apps.

In a couched shot at the notoriously secretive Amazon.com Inc., which has also been on a push to ramp up its advertising offerings, eBay’s press release announcing the news notes, “Unlike other commerce platforms, eBay Advertising offers full data transparency about advertisers’ products on eBay’s marketplace, sharing these deep data insights for brands to leverage and execute smarter campaigns.”

EBay, Davies notes, doesn’t compete with brands. “As a pure marketplace, we’re trying to connect consumers with products,” she says. “We’re very much open to sharing data with our partners.”


As a pure marketplace, we’re trying to connect consumers with products. “We’re very much open to sharing data with our partners.

That’s part of eBay’s “philosophy of transparency,” says Josh Wetzel, senior director of marketing and advertising. “Our belief is that we’ll build strong commerce partnerships with brands that help them tap into the shopper journey,” he says. “I’m not sure if other providers are as open about the data they gather.”

While eBay has massive reach, its overall sales growth is significantly slower than the broader e-commerce market. The gross value of goods sold on its global marketplaces was $83.76 billion in 2016, up 2.5% from $81.70 billion in 2015. Excluding the impact of the strong dollar, global sales increased 5%.